There are several forms of treatment which are widely used to treat the various forms of depression, but in my experience, there is a huge treatment gap, with many people not getting what they need.
Many people are suffering as a result, as is our society as a whole. Too many people are slipping through the net, and this is why there are so many suicides in the world, as well as other consequences.
Bias towards Pharmaceuticals
In recent decades, medication has taken on an increasingly predominant role. Although it can be effective to some degree in certain cases, especially for those with more severe cases, evidence suggests that it works for around only half of patients, and half of those again go on to suffer future episodes. This is by no means an optimal situation in my opinion.
Pharmaceutical companies have a lot of power. Through their association with the medical profession and government, they have great influence over how people are treated, and drug therapy is today the initial and predominant method of treatment in many countries. This is a completely unbalanced approach.
Nowadays, the most frequently prescribed antidepressants are SSRIs (selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors), SNRIs (serotonin norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors) and tricyclic antidepressants. SSRIs are often the first to be tried, as they are seen as being milder than other medications.
Nevertheless, drugs nearly always have negative side effects, and long-term usage is not good. It can lead to dependency, and does not necessarily treat the underlying thought patterns and causes. Drugs do not solve mental health problems, they just mask them for a while. I don’t believe it is healthy to be taking drugs for years on end. It is necessary in severe cases but, in my opinion, many people could have far greater success in the long run with alternative methods.
We need to work on the mind of the individual in other ways. We can then introduce better strategies, habits and behaviours, and permanently alter the mindset of the sufferer.
Therapy is a great tool which is used in addition to medication. There are many forms of therapy, such as counselling, where the psychological issues are discussed at length, as well as the possible causes for any depression. Systemic therapy is used to help improve relationships between individuals. Then there is CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy), a form of psychotherapy. The idea behind CBT is to alter the way in which we think and react to events, as healthier thought patterns will lead to less negativity. This is generally quite a short course of treatment, usually only lasting a few weeks. There are also various other types of therapy.
Any kind of therapy can be very effective, but it is expensive to provide as it requires skilled personnel, and so isn’t as freely available as it should be. There is a massive shortage of mental health therapy services in many countries, due to a lack of the correct provision of services, money and political will. Sufferers are often merely prescribed medication, and then left on it for years. Many people are being neglected and forgotten.
I was neglected for 15-20 years. I asked for help many times but only got a 15 minute appointment with a psychiatrist once every six months if I was lucky, put on waiting lists for therapy, then maybe saw a counsellor 3/4 times, but didn’t get any real help. Everyone just passed the buck. Know the feeling?
We desperately need to change our society’s mindset regarding mental health, giving it a much higher priority, as it has so many far-reaching consequences. It may be expensive yes, but it is morally absolutely vital to help sufferers, both for their, and other people’ sake. It will also most likely save money in the long run too, as it will relieve pressure on other services. A healthier society is vital for all, and we must all do more to promote this.